Skip to main content

Santa Clara County Route G8 and the New Almaden Quicksilver Mine

Santa Clara County Route G8 is a 29.38 mile County Sign Route which is part of the San Francisco Bay Area transportation corridor.  Santa Clara County Route G8 begins at California State Route 152 near the outskirts of Gilroy and terminates at former US Route 101 at 1st Street/Monterey Road near downtown San Jose.  Santa Clara County Route G8 incorporates the notable Almaden Expressway and is historically tied to the New Almaden Quicksilver Mine.  

(Santa Clara County Route G8 map image courtesy CAhighways.org)



Part 1; the history of Santa Clara County Route G8, the Almaden Road corridor and New Almaden Mine

The present corridor of Santa Clara County Route G8 ("G8") began to take shape with the emergence of the Almaden Expressway.  According to the October 1960 California Highways & Public Works Unit 1 of the Almaden Expressway opened in November of 1959 between Alma Avenue near downtown San Jose south to the Guadalupe River as part of a Federal Highway Aid Secondary program.  At the article publication date Unit 2 of the Almaden Expressway was being constructed over existing Almaden Road to the then new Hillsdale Expressway.



The early history of Almaden Road is also briefly discussed in the October 1960 California Highways & Public Works.  The corridor of Almaden Road had been in use as a trail by the Native Ohlone tribes who used it to obtain Cinnabar from Mine Hill of the Santa Cruz Mountains for use as red paint dye.  The first European to discover the Ohlone Cinnabar deposit at Mine Hill was Secundino Robles in 1824 during the Mexican period of Alta California.  Robles not recognizing the significance of his find attempted unsuccessfully to mine for gold and silver with several businesses partners over the following years.  

In 1845 Mexican Army Captain and trained geologist Andreas Castillero proved that the red rocks at Mine Hill contained Quicksilver (Mercury).  Castillero filed a mining November 1845 with the Mexican Government for the "Santa Clara Mine."  The earliest settlement at the Santa Clara Mine was Spanish Town which was plotted in late 1845.  In 1846 Castillero sold some of his shares in the Santa Clara Mine to English investors of Barron, Forbes, & Company after being recalled by the Mexican Army due to the Mexican-American War.  The new English investors renamed mine to "New Almaden" which was a reference to the Almaden Quicksilver Mine in Spain.  

After the Mexican-American War the New Almaden Mine became part of what would become the State of California.  The New Almaden Mine spiked in importance due to the onset of the California Gold Rush after the finding Gold at Sutter's Mill was announced.  Mercury was an essential product used in the assay process for much of the mines of the California Gold Rush period and would ultimately see the New Almaden Mine become the largest producer in the world.      

After the Mexican-American War the previous land claims of Alta California were evaluated via a Board of Commissioners.  This board initially ruled in favor of honoring Andreas Castillero's mining claim during January of 1856 but the case eventually was elevated to the United States District Courts.  The United States Supreme Court invalidated Castillero's mining claim during March of 1863.  The Federal Government evaluated to nationalizing/purchasing the New Almaden Mine but backed off due to concerns of losing the loyalty of California during the American Civil War.  Barron, Forbes, & Company sold the New Almaden Mine to American Investors from the Quicksilver Mining Company in 1864.  

The Hacienda Reduction Works at the New Almaden Mine in an 1863 Carleton Watkins photo.

Spanish Town was joined by The Hacienda Settlement on Alamitos Creek by the early 1850s.  The Casa Grande of The Hacienda Settlement was constructed by 1854 and still stands today.   A third settlement known as Englishtown would develop at the New Almaden Mine in the 1860s.  The corridor of Almaden Road became a well established and heavily traveled freight corridor from the New Almaden Mine north to San Jose.  The New Almaden Mine and Almaden Road can be seen on the 1876 Thompson & West Santa Clara County Index.  


Map 8 in the 1876 Thompson & West Santa Clara County Index shows the New Almaden Mine and Almaden Road greater detail.  


Spanish Town in March 1876 from a NPS.gov article on the New Almaden Mine.  


The Casa Grande of The Hacienda in a NPS.gov sourced photo.


The New Almaden Mine as sketched in the 1876 Thompson & West Santa Clara County Index.  


This 1885 USGS Map shows the Ore Bodies and Topography of Mine Hill at the New Almaden Mine.


This 1887 USGS Longitudinal Section Map shows the South Ore Channel of the New Almaden Mine.


By November of 1886 the corridor of Almaden Road was supplemented by the opening of the Southern Pacific Railroad's spur New Almaden Branch.  The New Almaden Branch originated from Campbell and generally strayed east of Almalitos Creek.  This line was in heavy decline by the 1920s as only a single train ran on Monday's to the New Almaden Mine (by circa 1922).  The New Almaden Branch was shuttered in 1934 during the height of the Great Depression and was largely abandoned.  More on the New Almaden Branch can be found on abandonedrails.com.  



The New Almaden Mine had been managed by James Randol of the Quicksilver Mining company from 1870 to 1892.  Following Randol's retirement the New Almaden Mine began to decline which led to the bankruptcy of the Quicksilver Mining Company in 1912.   After the Quicksilver Mining Company bankruptcy the communities of; Spanish Town, Englishtown and The Hacienda began to decline.  Spanish Town and English Town became ghost towns whereas The Hacienda lived on.  The Hacienda community is generally referred to today as New Almaden and is located on Almaden Road.   

Despite the bankruptcy of the Quicksilver Mining Company and decline of the New Almaden Mine it continued to operate through much of the 20th Century.  Almaden Road was paved between 1920 through 1925.   The New Almaden Mine began to be operated by several smaller mining operations which included the New Idria Mining Company beginning in 1928.  Almaden Road can be seen as a major local maintained corridor on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Santa Clara County.  A underpass of the Southern Pacific Railroad mainline was constructed on Almaden Road in 1935.  



By the 1950s suburban sprawl out of the core of San Jose began to consume the established core of Almaden Road.  This culminated in the planning of the Almaden Expressway which was largely plotted out by 1957.   According to CAhighways.org the entirety of Santa Clara County Route G8 had been established by 1962.  The early G8 corridor incorporated parts of the completed Almaden Expressway and Almaden Road southward to Harry Road.  

The Almaden Expressway can be seen constructed southward to Blossom Hill Road/Santa Clara County Route G10 on the 1966 Department of Public Works Map (published by Gousha).  Existing Almaden Road southward towards Harry Road can be seen as part of G8 and as having a planned expansion which was lapped by the City Limits of San Jose.  



The price of Mercury dropped in 1970 which impacted the New Almaden Mine severely.  This was coupled with increasing concerns over the known toxicity of Mercury which led to the New Almaden Mine closing for the final time in 1976.  At the time of it's final closure the New Almaden Mine produced 83,974,076 pounds of Mercury.  Santa Clara County purchased the New Almaden Mine in 1976 and converted it into Almaden Quicksilver County Park by 1978.  The Alamaden Expressway would reach it's current terminus at Harry Road by 1984 and would see the current alignment shift of G8.  


Part 2; a drive on Santa Clara County Route G8 and visit to the New Almaden Mine 

G8 northbound begins from California State Route 152 ("CA 152") west of Gilroy in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Hecker Pass.  G8 northbound begins with a right turn from CA 152 westbound onto Watsonville Road.  


G8 northbound follows Watsonville Road 3.62 miles before making a left hand turn onto Uvas Road.  There is no reassurance G8 shield directing traffic onto Uvas Road from Watsonville Road.  Uvas Dam as signed as 2 miles from Watsonville Road as G8 turns onto Uvas Road.  















G8 northbound on Uvas Road passes by the Uvas Reservoir.  The Uvas Reservoir is impounded by Uvas Dam which was built along Uvas Creek in 1957.  











G8/Uvas Road northbound crosses over Eastman Canyon Creek and follows western bank of the Uvas Reservoir.  An older culvert and alignment of Uvas Road can be spied in the Uvas Reservoir during periods of low water retention.   





G8/Uvas Road north of the Uvas Reservoir crosses over Uvas Creek via a one-lane bridge near the confluence with Little Uvas Creek.  





G8/Uvas Road northbound crosses another one-lane bridge over Little Uvas Creek just beyond Little Uvas Road.  






G8/Uvas Road northbound is signed as 5.5 miles from the Calero Reservoir after intersecting Oak Glen Avenue.  




G8/Uvas Road northbound crosses another one-lane bridge at Llagas Creek.  



As G8 northbound intersects Casa Loma Road it transitions from Uvas Road to McKean Road. 



G8/McKean Road northbound passes by the entrance to Calero County Park.  




On the eastern flank of the Calero Reservoir G8/McKean Road northbound intersects Bailey Road.  All G8 signage northward from Bailey Road into San Jose seems to be missing.  



G8/McKean Road jogs westward along the north bank of the Calero Reservoir and swings northward again upon crossing Calero Creek.  The Calero Reservoir was impounded in 1935 when Calero Dam was constructed.  






G8/McKean Road northbound enters the City of San Jose near Harry Road.  G8 northbound transitions onto Harry Road toward the Almaden Expressway. 




A left hand turn onto Harry Road accesses Almaden Road.  A turn southward onto Almaden Road follows Almaitos Creek into the community of New Almaden.  New Almaden is signed as a National Historic District. 




New Almaden and Almaden Road is adorned with home-brew style speed limit signage.  


The Casa Grande now houses the New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum.  


Almaden Road ends at The Hacienda Entrance to Almaden Quicksilver County Park. 






California Registered Historical Landmark # 339-1 can be found on Almaden Road opposite The Hacienda Entrance to Almaden Quicksilver County Park. 




Pat Tillman was once a resident of New Almaden and has a memorial plaque on Almaden Road.  


The Deep Gulch Trail begins at the site of The Hacienda Reduction Works which now houses a large display of mining equipment.   
































The Deep Gulch Trail bears evidence of being a graded mining road.  The Deep Gulch Trail quickly ascends up Mine Hill where one can see some of the grade work on the English Camp Trail approaching the top.  




































The tailings of the Harry Mine Shaft can be found as the Deep Gulch Trail plateaus onto Mine Hill.







The Deep Gulch Trail terminates at the English Camp Trail. 





The English Camp Trail ascends the ruins of Englishtown.  








A plaque regarding Englishtown (referred to as English Camp) can be found next to a rusting metal building.  Following the abandonment of Englishtown much of it's structures were used by the Civilian Conservation Corps. 




Several plaques regarding the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp Mt. Madonna can found in Englishtown.  Camp Mt. Madonna was occupied from 1933 through 1942 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  




Some of the collapsed buildings in Englishtown.  



The ruins of the 1942 New Almaden Company Mine Office can be found in Englishtown.  






A derelict chimney in Englishtown.  




A look back from the New Almaden Mine Office towards the heart of Englishtown.  


The Castillero Trail and Hidalgo Cemetery Trail can be used to access the site of Spanish Town.  Various crumbing buildings can be found on the Hidalgo Cemetery Trail. 


























A plaque at the site of Spanish Town shows how the community once looked sitting atop of Mine Hill and Deep Gulch.  The original mine used by the local tribes was near the site of Spanish Town.  The Civilian Conservation Corps removed most of Spanish Town in the 1930s.  




Descending the Yellow Kid Trail from Spanish Town one can find the site of the Main Tunnel.  The Main Tunnel was the first major shaft dug at the New Almaden Mine and was the hub from which Spanish Town operated.  








A plaque regarding the Yellow Kid Tunnel can be found below the Main Tunnel.  The Yellow Kid Tunnel was principal entrance to the New Almaden Mine from 1894-1896.  




The final drop on the Yellow Kid Trail back to Englishtown and the English Camp Trail. 






The English Camp Trail drops rapidly to the Mine Hill Trail.  Views of the former Hacienda Reduction Works site and a chimney at Spanish Town can be seen during the descent.  




















The site of the Incline Tramway can be found while descending the Mine Hill Trail.  The Incline Tramway was constructed in 1864 and was use for about four decades.  







A plaque regarding The Hacienda Reduction Works can be found near the bottom of the Mine Hill Trail.  




A plaque regarding the potential nationalization of the New Almaden Mine during the American Civil War can be found at the end of the Mine Hill Trail.  


A replica of the Hacienda Reduction Works Bell Tower can be found at the bottom of Mine Hill.  The original tower was installed after a 1874 fire as a way to contact the fire brigade.



Returning to G8 northbound it transitions from McKean Road to the Almaden Expressway.  




G8/Almaden Expressway northbound expands to four lanes approaching Almaden Road after crossing Almaitos Creek.  




G8/Almaden Expressway continues northward as an arterial street which is grade separated from businesses and homes.  At Blossom Hill Road G8/Almaden Expressway intersects Santa Clara County Route G10.  G8/Almaden Expressway continues north and junctions CA 85.  












G8/Almaden Expressway northbound passes over Hillsdale Avenue and Capitol Expressway via a grade separation.  Santa Clara County Route G21 and is carried by the Capitol Expressway.


G8/Almaden Expressway northbound approaching the Guadalupe River crossing has a left hand exit to Lincoln Avenue.  


G8/Almaden Expressway northbound has a grade separated exit at Curtner Avenue. 


G8/Almaden Expressway northbound crosses over but does not access CA 87. 


G8 north of CA 87 reaches the end of the Almaden Expressway and transitions onto Almaden Road.  


G8 northbound transitions from Almaden Road via right hand turn onto Alma Avenue.  


G8 terminates via Alma Avenue at former US Route 101 at 1st Street/Monterey Road.


Comments

AlexatWagan said…
This is so great! Thank you for capturing this. This is right in our backyard!

I've been on your site for a couple years now and love what you do--thank you!

Popular posts from this blog

The Smithtown Bull in Smithtown, New York

  Before I moved to Upstate New York as a young man, I grew up in the Long Island town of Smithtown during the 1980s and 1990s. The recognizable symbol of Smithtown is a bronze statue of a bull named Whisper, located at the junction of NY Route 25 and NY Route 25A near the bridge over the Nissequogue River. Why a bull, you may ask. The bull is a symbol of a legend related to the town's founding in 1665 by Richard "Bull" Smythe, with a modernized name of Richard Smith. It also so happens that there is a story behind the legend, one that involves ancient land right transfers and some modern day roads as well. So the story goes that Smythe made an agreement with a local Indian tribe where Smythe could keep whatever land he circled around in a day's time riding atop his trusty bull. Choosing the longest day of the year for his ride, he set out with his bull Whisper and went about riding around the borders of the Town of Smithtown. As legend has it, Smythe t

The Midway Palm and Pine of US Route 99

Along modern day California State Route 99 south of Avenue 11 just outside the City limits of Madera one can find the Midway Palm and Pine in the center median of the freeway.  The Midway Palm and Pine denotes the halfway point between the Mexican Border and Oregon State Line on what was US Route 99.  The Midway Palm is intended to represent Southern California whereas the Midway Pine is intended to represent Northern California.  Pictured above the Midway Palm and Pine can be seen from the northbound lanes of the California State Route 99 Freeway.   The history of the Midway Palm and Pine The true timeframe for when the Midway Palm and Pine (originally a Deadora Cedar Tree) were planted is unknown.  In fact the origin of the Midway Palm and Pine was referenced in California's Gold Episode #608 during which Huell Howser examined numerous points claimed to be the Center of California.  During Episode #608 Huell Howser interviews Caltrans employee Bob Thompson who emphasizes there wa

Erie Canal: Little Falls and Moss Island

  Little Falls, New York is a small city in the Mohawk Valley that has been shaped by the forces of water throughout its history. Nowhere in Little Falls is that more evident than at Moss Island. Representing the Industrial Age, this is home of Lock 17 the tallest lock along the Erie Canal, but there is also evidence of the Ice Age in the form of 40 foot deep glacial potholes from when there was an ancient waterfall that was even larger than Niagara Falls at this spot, once draining Glacial Lake Iroquois when other outlets (such as the St. Lawrence River) were blocked by retreating glaciers. While Little Falls does not have the amount of industry around the river and canal than it once had, checking out what Moss Island has to offer is a great way to see what the city has to offer. Visiting Moss Island allows you to experience the engineering marvel that is the Erie Canal plus the wonders of nature by taking a hike around the island and seeing the glacial potholes. A